Today I had the opportunity to talk about St. Joseph with some Year 4 students at a Catholic School in Bradford, England. One of our CSJP sisters lives in the parish and is a regular visitor to the school. Sister Catherine arranged for me to visit and talk about St Joseph.
As it happens, the students (many of whom in this multicultural Yorkshire town are Muslim) happened to already know a lot about Joseph! St. Joseph is the patron saint of their class in fact.
When I asked what they could tell me about him, they answered one after the other, raising their hands. Joseph was the foster father of Jesus. He helped Mary take care of Jesus. He was the step father of God. He was a good man. They knew that he worked as a carpenter. He is a Saint. He was there with Mary when Jesus was born. He took his family to find safety .
I told them that the founder of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace chose Joseph as the patron of my religious community because he is a model of peace. When I asked why we needed peace today, again their hands quickly went in the air. Peace for Ukraine. Peace for people who are arguing. Peace for everyone.
I really enjoyed the chance to visit with these 8 and 9 year olds. They seemed amazed that I had actually written a book and asked me lots of questions about how long it took, how I researched it, and how I put it together.
The nun thing was of course also one of the questions. How did I become a Sister? And finally, the best question, if I am a Sister of St Joseph, am I actually related to him? We are all children of God, I said, so we’re all related. I am related to Joseph and so are you!
It was unexpected when Pope Francis declared a year dedicated to Joseph last year. I had already spent significant time with my friend Joe, having just finished the manuscript of my book (My Friend Joe: Reflections on St. Joseph – available as a paperback or ebook) the month before.
Joseph is always there for us, with us. He doesn’t need a special year or day. He can be our friend every day.
He can also be a model for us as we navigate this thing called life.
In my religious Congregation we consider him to be a model of peace in times of struggle and uncertainty.
Check. That would be many times, but certainly now.
He can inspire us to dream. To take risks for those we love. To act justly. To serve God. To work creatively. To love always.
This week, on a day packed with very important zoom meetings (which seems like everyday of late, begging the question of how important they can actually be), I spotted this tableau on my way through the house.
Joseph, standing tall. The caption that came to me was “Joseph pondering the needs of the world.”
Given the caption, the needs of the world are pretty big, and Joseph, while standing tall, can barely peek into the top of the jar/well/container.
(What you don’t know is that Joseph has a broken foot, super glued back into place).
So here is Joe. Standing tall, but barely taller than the needs of the world. Standing on a broken, haphazardly fixed, ceramic foot. Looking tenderly upon the needs of our broken world. The needs of the family of God. His family.
Don’t know about you, but I found this very comforting.
St. Joseph, pray for the people of God, your family. We need your prayers and intercession!
My Christmas card this year is a picture I took of a statue of St. Joseph “looking” at a Christmas tree lit up on the grounds of Bon Secours retreat center in Maryland that I took last year on retreat.
As I wrote in my Christmas Letter to family & friends:
I’ve been spending time talking to Joseph these days. In our CSJP constitutions we say about Joseph: “His courage to life a life of faith inspires us to trust in God’s abiding love, especially in times of struggle and uncertainty.”
Pope Francis writes about his own prayer practice with Joseph, and that he’s the one he goes to when he is “in a fix.” He writes little notes of problems that need fixing and slips them under a statue of Joseph. Joseph was a carpenter after all. When we spend time with the Gospel readings about the birth of Jesus, Prince of Peace, during the time of empire, we can see that Joseph understands what it’s like to keep on keeping on during challenging times.
We don’t often spend a lot of time with Joseph, but I think we all could use a little Joseph in our lives these days.
This Christmas Eve, I prayed with “As Joseph Was a Walking” recorded by Annie Lennox. If you want to spend some time with Joseph, here’s my video prayer reflection:
Today is the Feast of St. Joseph! Margaret Anna Cusack (Mother Francis Clare) chose St. Joseph as the patron of my religious community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, because he was a model of peace. In the words of our original 1884 Constitutions:
A few years ago I made this video prayer reflection for St. Joseph’s Day (complete with a rather funny typo). I invite you to spend some time today with Joseph, model of peace.